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William E. Simon Lecture

Annually, since 2007, the Manhattan Institute has sponsored the William E. Simon lecture on philanthropy and social entrepreneurship. This lecture series seeks to provide a framework—historical and current, scholarly and personal—for understanding the tradition and trends in American charity and charitable enterprises. Our first three lectures have ranged widely across these fields, including the 2007 talk by a distinguished historian, the 2008 talk by a renowned public policy essayist, and the December, 2009 lecture by the founder of the nation's most prominent management consulting firm for non-profits.


March 6, 2014 | New York City
What is Conservative Philanthropy?
Speaker: Michael Gerson, Columnist, Washington Post

December 12, 2012 | New York City
Philanthrocapitalism: How Giving Can Save the World
Speaker: Matthew Bishop, American Business Editor & New York Bureau Chief, The Economist

December 14, 2011 | New York City
Disruptive Technology And The Nonprofit Organization
Speaker: Clayton Christensen, Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School

December 9, 2010 | New York City
The Real Social Entrepreneurs
Speaker: William Schambra, Director, Bradley Center for Philanthrophy, Hudson Institute

December 3, 2009 | New York City
How Philanthropy’s Bad Habits Shortchange America
Speaker: Thomas J. Tierney, Chairman and Founder of the Bridgespan Group
Related Reading

December 10, 2008 | New York City
In Defense of Philanthropy As We Know It
Speaker: Heather Mac Donald, John M. Olin fellow at the Manhattan Institute and contributing editor to City Journal

November 29, 2007 | New York City
Philanthropy and Social Entrepreneurship
Speaker: David Nasaw, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. Professor of History at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York

Social Entrepreneurship Awards

Our Program

The nomination period for the 2014 awards ended on March 7th. Winners will be notified later this summer.

History has shown that free markets are the best way to organize economic activity. But the Manhattan Institute understands that in a healthy society, markets are complemented by charitable and philanthropic enterprises—which both help those in need and prepare citizens to realize their potential. Indeed, Adam Smith himself understood this: his writing on the virtues of markets (Wealth of Nations) was preceded by his writing on morality, compassion, and altruism (Theory of Moral Sentiments). Since its founding, the United States has been characterized by its vibrant civil society, one in which private, nonprofit, voluntary nongovernmental organizations are formed to ameliorate social ills.

To underscore the importance we place on this part of American society, the Manhattan Institute, since 2001, has presented  two annual awards recognizing the work of “social entrepreneurs”—those who have built effective organizations that address social needs, through civil society, not government.

William E. Simon Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Entrepreneurship

Learn more about past winners >>

Learn about nomination criteria >>

The William E. Simon Prize for lifetime achievement in social entrepreneurship recognizes the founder-leaders of long-established organizations, with a proven track record of effectiveness and influence. The Simon Prize carries with it a $100,000 personal honorarium. Named for the one-time secretary of the Treasury and pioneer private equity fund leader, the Prize has been awarded to those who have followed in the footsteps of such great American historical figures as Clara Barton, founder of the Red Cross and Jane Addams, founder of Hull House, inspiration for hundreds of early 20th-century settlement houses for immigrants.

Nominations for the Simon Prize are accepted from the general public, with special attention paid to nominations from philanthropic donors.

Richard Cornuelle Award for Social Entrepreneurship

Learn about award winners >>

Learn about nomination criteria >>

Through the Richard E. Cornuelle awards, we also recognize younger organizations whose fresh ideas and innovations are identifying new approaches to helping those in need. The Cornuelle Award carries with it $25,000 in grant support to the recepient organization. Up to five organizations are recognized each year. In keeping with the social entrepreneurship program's emphasis on the vitality of American civil society, the award is directed toward those with original ideas brought to fruition with predominantly private support, rather than in response to government grant programs.

Questions about the Social Entrepreneurship Awards can be directed to Michael Barreiro at

In Democracy in America, Tocqueville observed:

"Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all dispositions, constantly form associations. They have not only commercial and manufacturing companies but associations of a thousand other kinds-religious, moral, serious, futile, enormous, or diminutive. The Americans make associations to give entertainments, to found seminaries, to build inns, to construct churches, to diffuse books; to send out missionaries; they found in this manner hospitals, prisons, and schools. Wherever, at the head of some new undertaking, you see the government in France, or a man of rank in England, in the United States you will be sure to find an association."

Both to celebrate and support this tradition, the Manhattan Institute established our social entrepreneurship initiative in 2001. Directed by Vice-President for Policy Research Howard Husock, it combines research, writing, public speaking, and events on the role of nonprofit, nongovernmental organizations with an award program which recognizes the best of America's new generation of nonprofit leaders.

The term "social entrepreneur," now widely used, has taken on a variety of meanings. Some use it to refer to policy advocates, even government officials. For our part, we use it to refer to those who develop an original approach to dealing with a social problem—and who found and lead an organization with demonstrated effectiveness in ameliorating that problem through tangible services to individuals. Our award program recognizes those with the ambition to increase the scale or reach of their approach, whether by expanding their own program or providing a model for others who would start similar organizations. It is our view that such "scale" is
Non-Profits And The State
National Affairs, Howard Husock
important, as both America and nations around the world (including such still-developing societies as India and China) consider whether a larger government welfare state is the only way, or the most effective way, to deal with social problems—or if we can look to a robust, civil society instead. It is with an eye toward showing results and reaching increasing numbers of those in need that we assess the winners of our annual social entrepreneurship awards. We recognize both those whose accomplishments have been demonstrated over a lifetime of service, as well as those who have only recently founded organizations that are already proving to be effective and important.


As part of our Social Entrepreneurship Initiative, vice-president Howard Husock has published widely on the topic and related public policy issues. The following essays and articles explore such themes as the Obama Administration's view of government's relationship to charity and nonprofits; the potential for a non-profit "stock market"; and the values and motivations of the new generation of social entrpreneurs.

2012 Manhattan Institute Social Entrepreneurship Awards Honors C-SPAN's Brian Lamb, Howard Husock, The Huffington Post, 11-27-12
More Independence, Greater Results, Howard Husock, New York Times Room for Debate, 11-27-12
Nonprofits Help Keep Civil Society Running, Howard Husock, Washington Examiner, 03-09-11
Non-Profits And The State, National Affairs, 12-22-10
Never Enough Beauty, Never Enough Truth, Heather Mac Donald, City Journal, Winter 2009
A Standing Oration, Howard Husock, Wall Street Journal, 04-26-06
New Philanthropists Talk Left, Act Right, Howard Husock, City Journal, Winter 2006

More information on the Manhattan Institute's Philanthropy Initiative

2013 Social Entrepreneurship Awards

This year Rev. Timothy R. Scully, professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame, was awarded the William E. Simon Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Social Entrepreneurship for founding and leading the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE).

“On behalf of the entire University, I want to congratulate Father Scully for this recognition and for his leadership in supporting Catholic schools and the essential service they provide in delivering spiritually enriching, morally grounded, quality education to many of the nation’s poorest children,” said Rev. John I.  Jenkins, C.S.C, President of the University of Notre Dame.


The winners of the Richard C. Cornuelle Award for Innovation in Social Entrepreneurship included individuals and organizations that offer hands-on assistance to victims of natural disasters, inspire at-risk minority youth through the arts, help at-risk urban children through mentoring, and provide mental health services to military families.


Social Entrepreneurship Brochure 2013.
Social Entrepreneurship Brochure 2012.
Social Entrepreneurship Brochure 2011.
Social Entrepreneurship Brochure 2010.
Social Entrepreneurship Brochure 2008.



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